London (AFP) – A double from Belgian international striker Christian Benteke inspired Crystal Palace to a 3-0 win over Southampton and saved manager Alan Pardew’s job in ending a six match Premier League losing streak on Saturday.
Benteke’s brace — taking his tally to seven this season — and a goal from James Tompkins gave the hosts a deserved victory against a poor Southampton side, who ended the week with the club embroiled in the sex abuse scandal dating back to the 1970s.
It had been reported in some of the British media that if Palace had lost Pardew — who only months ago was minutes away from delivering Palace the FA Cup before Manchester United came back to rip it from their hands — would have been shown the door.
Palace had the best chance of the opening half hour Wilfried Zaha getting to the by-line and his cross was met by Benteke but his header whistled past Fraser Forster’s post.
Forster, though, was to have a moment one dreads especially when it is in front of the watching England manager Gareth Southgate — who played for Palace in the 1990’s — in gifting the hosts their first goal.
Forster aimed to clear the ball with his left foot but missed it, it came off his right foot and Benteke was on hand to tap it home for his sixth goal of the season and put them ahead in the 33rd minute.
Palace doubled their lead three minutes later as the previously measly Saints defence — who prior to the game had the third best defensive record in the league — were again caught napping Tomkins nipping to to prod home from a couple of yards out.
Southampton offered little in attack — Sofiane Boufal’s mis-timed volley early in the second-half endemic of their lack of bite in attack — and manager Claude Puel moved to change things just before the hour mark sending on teenager Josh Sims.
Sims added much needed energy to Southampton’s attack and went close almost immediately, Boufal teeing him up and the 19-year-old unleashed a fine left-footed effort which went close.
Palace, though put the result beyond doubt as former Saints player Jason Puncheon set up Benteke to score five minutes from time and the hosts held out to also record their first clean sheet in 19 matches.
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